0333 577 0883


Tag Archive: government

  1. Apprenticeship Reform: Where are we now?

    Comments Off on Apprenticeship Reform: Where are we now?

    In 2015 the Department for Education set out its vision for English Apprenticeships following a review into the system, to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships through a transformational programme of change. Whilst apprenticeships were successful, the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships found a number of challenges that we needed to address if we wanted to improve their quality and quantity. 

    It found that the quality of apprenticeship training needed to be improved and relevant to meet the needs of the employer. Employer investment and sustainable funding for apprenticeships must be secured and the accessibility of these apprenticeships also needs to be improved, supporting the vulnerable. Ultimately we needed more apprenticeships overall to meet the skills gap. 

    The Apprenticeship Reform Programme had four main objectives; to meet the skills needs of the employers, to create progression for apprentices, to widen participation and social mobility in apprenticeships and to create more quality apprenticeships.  

    According to the latest 2021 report on the programme as it comes to an end, three million apprenticeships had been entered into in England between 2015 and 2020. This latest report highlights how successful the Programme has been and outlines plans for 2021 and beyond. 

    On quality, their achievement rate for apprenticeship standards has gone up by 12%. But there is a lot more to do. To meet this objective, there is new employer and provider guidance and more self-assessment tools. There’s also a new national online Apprenticeship Workforce Development programme for training providers. The government is also implementing a new accountability approach to ensure high-quality assurance for all those registered to deliver training. 

    Last March the programme faced its biggest challenge yet with the Covid-19 pandemic. Apprenticeship numbers dropped due to the impact of national lockdowns, with staff on furlough, falls in vacancies and some employment failure. In response to this, the government introduced flexibilities and adaptations to enable apprenticeships to continue and all learners to start and complete their apprenticeship. Support was also provided to businesses, offering £1,500 in grants for every apprentice they hire, rising to £2000 if the new apprentice was under the age of 25. This was further increased to £3000. 

    We’ve always looked to employ apprentices within the business but due to our significant growth, we’re now looking to grow and employ even more. There’s a national skills shortage with more people retiring than entering the industry. So apprentices can help meet this need and improve local skills, helping more young people into the industry. We also help by working with local colleges to provide support, placements and apprenticeships to their students. 

    The Apprenticeship Reform Programme has been completed now but the focus now is on raising quality and extending accessibility of apprenticeships to employers in all sectors. The future of the programme remains responsive to the needs of the employers and apprentices through the new objectives. The government will now concentrate on embedding the reforms it has made and providing the market with sufficient stability to adjust to the new models of apprenticeships funding, delivery, and quality assurance. 

    The future programme will continue with a focus on four key benefits; to support employers of all sizes to benefit from high-quality apprenticeships that are relevant and responsive, drive up the quality of apprenticeships, support progression into sustainable employment and ensure apprenticeships are accessible to individuals at all stages of their career. This will hopefully help the country recover more quickly from the pandemic and help provide a solution to the skills shortage. 

  2. Radical rail reforms launched by the government

    Comments Off on Radical rail reforms launched by the government

    The Railway sector is on track for the biggest shake-up to its model since the 90s after Whitehall recognised the need for a complete overhaul. After years of anticipation, challenges and delays, it pledges to ‘fix the system’ and deliver a better service for passengers across the country. The government’s white paper presents a brand new vision for the country’s rail network.

    Key takeaways from the white paper included the creation of a new body, Great British Railways (GBR). This is set to absorb existing organisations like Network Rail and bring the entire system together, similar to the Transport for London model in the capital. Bringing everything under one umbrella is ambitious but welcome, various elements such as timetables and fares are vastly different wherever you are in the country and this will help improve the system and provide consistency for passengers. 

    Speaking of fares, they’re set to be ‘simplified’ and designed for ‘for the passenger’. Prices are constantly rising and private franchises have failed for a number of years in delivering efficiency. New plans will see fares being set centrally and getting rid of thousands of existing, and somewhat complex pricing combinations. However, the problem is that there’s no guarantee this change will be cheaper. 

    Coinciding with a change in the way people work following the pandemic, one of the biggest changes will be flexible tickets for those who are moving to hybrid working. This will be a welcome change for those making the switch to this new way of working. 

    Breaking away from rail franchising, the government outlined that the new system will be run by GBR who will then pay each operator to run their services. So passengers won’t see any name changes but they will hopefully see an improvement in service. Bonuses will be given to companies who fulfil certain criteria such as punctuality and cleanliness. 

    Finally, aligning to the UK’s climate targets, the government plans to decarbonise the rail network over the next 30 years. A bigger, more detailed ‘environmental plan’ will be published in 2022 highlighting how it plans to set out this change. These changes will be welcome news to commuters across the country, who have been dealing with delays, price increases and overcrowding for years. Hopefully with a more central body holding companies to account, services will improve significantly. 

    We’re able to provide a vast range of services for this sector, from modular and portable staff buildings through to equipment stores.

    Want to see our past case studies? Head over to our case studies page.

  3. Homes England makes MMC push

    Comments Off on Homes England makes MMC push

    Homes England set to make Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) push. Telling its potential strategic partners, if they want more deals, that they need to start committing to increasing the use of MMC on projects. 

    Strategic partnerships provide housing providers with access to funding via a multi-year grant, rather than on a scheme-by-scheme basis. This means that organisations will have more stability because they can rely on a steady cash flow. 

    To be considered for a strategic partnership, applicants must “demonstrate a significant commitment to Homes England’s broader aims, from increasing the use of MMC to promoting great design.” After a shake-up, the Government body has expanded the types of organisations that it will form strategic partnerships with enabling more people to apply. Local authorities, developers and not-for-profit registered providers are now eligible. 

    Since its launch three years ago, there have been 23 deals with around 27 housing associations agreed. The government claims that the partnerships have delivered around £1.8billion in grant investment and built more than 40,000 homes across the country. Homes England has also highlighted that its initial phase of strategic partnerships also reported some unexpected benefits including unlocking difficult sites for development, attracting investment and accelerating delivery. 

    This is a welcome idea as the uptake in MMC and offsite construction has been relatively slow, despite its speed, quality and environmental benefits. With a push from Homes England, it’s what the industry needs to build greener and be more innovative. With the homes being built and 90 percent completed offsite in a controlled factory environment, there’s reduced waste, reduced disruption to neighbouring communities and reduced traffic in and out of site. 

    We’re able to provide a turnkey solution. Do you think a push towards MMC could help with your housing needs? We’re able to help. Find out how by reaching out today. 

    Homes England makes MMC push | Updates | Thurston Group


  4. Rail reforms from the government “need more detail”

    Comments Off on Rail reforms from the government “need more detail”

    After the government launched its ‘once-in-a-generation’ plan to reform the UK’s railways, a parliamentary watchdog has reported that the overhaul lacks detail and urgency. It has also questioned whether the government has the capacity to deliver the rail reforms. 

    The railway sector was set for the biggest shake-up to its model since the 90s after the government pledged to ‘fix the system’ and ‘deliver a better service for passengers’ in their white paper. It presented a brand new vision for the country’s rail network, but can it deliver?

    Key takeaways included; the creation of a new body, Great British Railways (GBR), simplified fares and flexible tickets, a break away from rail franchising and a decarbonised rail network. The Institute for Government, a leading think tank working to make Government more effective and efficient, has provided analysis of the white paper. It has highlighted that the rail reforms risk being undermined by lack of detail and urgency. As well as a lack of plan to bring people back after the pandemic. 

    The public accounts committee has also said that while they see the Department for Transport are aware of the issues surrounding the country’s rail network, it is worried that they don’t have the capacity to deliver and don’t understand just how much work is needed to improve the service. The GBR is set to oversee both train and track infrastructure and pay private companies to run the services on strict contracts. 

    However the parliamentary report says that while the white paper is a great first step, its implementation carries a lot of risk and has the potential to overpromise and under deliver. The department has stated that their proposals will ensure “greater value for money” and “a better deal for passengers” but the committee has called for not just an improvement to current rail services, but a more aligned service with other modes of public transport. 

    If it is serious in its plan to decarbonise the railway, we need to reduce those using cars and join the rail network up with local buses, trams and underground services. Without a better link up, there’s a risk of people using cars to get to the railway which could jeopardise the government’s net zero targets. 

    While it’s a welcome plan and a good first step, those around the government, holding them to account, want to see a lot more detail around implementation and timelines to try and get a sense of how it’s going to work. They want to see strategic long-term plans and targets for how this new ‘umbrella’ system will work and also how it will be held to account if it doesn’t go as planned for passengers. They also want a detailed plan and timeline for how the government plans to transition from the current model and clarify the scope of the GBR’s independence. This will ultimately help maintain both public and political confidence in the GBR during the transition and for the long term.

    Need a refresher on what the reforms are? Head over to our last blog. Rail reforms from the government “need more detail” | Thurston Group

  5. Coalition calls for tougher carbon controls on new buildings

    Comments Off on Coalition calls for tougher carbon controls on new buildings

    A coalition has written to Jeremy Pocklington, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government calling for tougher carbon controls. They’re warning that the proposed Future Buildings Standard (FBS) contains “significant shortcomings”. Also highlighting that the Government needs to be far more ambitious in the regulation of energy consumption in new buildings if it wants to meet carbon reduction targets

    RIBA president also said the proposed standards don’t go far enough to reduce the built environment’s carbon footprint. A letter, including 21 signatures from the likes of RIBA, Architects Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, CIOB and the UK Green Building Council, highlights significant concerns around the proposed energy and ventilation standards for non-domestic buildings and existing homes in England.

    The letter states there are several areas that are critical to achieving the UK’s net zero goals. And with the right decisions, can demonstrate global leadership and create a “world-leading built environment sector”. 

    The coalition, comprising architects, built environment and climate groups, has said if the Government wants to achieve this they need to start regulating total energy consumption, and not introduce primary energy, and set actual energy performance targets for buildings. The consultation states that new buildings should be “zero carbon ready” but to address the climate emergency, we need to be building net zero carbon buildings. We also need to assess building performance better to close the performance gap, introduce and regulate embodied carbon targets for buildings and set a clear National Retrofit Strategy. 

    RIBA President, Alan Jones, said, “The built environment is responsible for approximately 40% of the UK’s total carbon output. Put simply, the proposed Future Buildings Standard does not go far enough to reduce this impact. To reach net zero carbon emissions, demonstrate global leadership and create a world-leading built environment sector England needs more ambitious regulations. The Future Buildings Standard provides an opportunity to make critical and essential changes: to regulate total energy consumption and set critical targets for actual energy performance and embodied carbon. I urge policymakers to realise its potential.”

    We’re committed to reducing our carbon footprint and ensuring that we’re building a better future. We do this by observing the ten circular economy principles to help achieve true net zero buildings and adopting a fabric first approach. Offsite construction is more sustainable than traditional methods. We work hard to minimise waste and make sure we’re building sustainable modular and portable buildings. Though more organisations could do better to combat climate change and ensure that our planet has a better future.  

    You can read the full letter here.

  6. Thirty towns are set to receive over £700 million in funding

    Comments Off on Thirty towns are set to receive over £700 million in funding

    Funding has been announced by the government for 30 towns across England to boost their local economies, create jobs and new homes, and improve local skills. Helping these communities “build back better” from the pandemic according to a release issued by the government.

    Each of the towns will be sharing over £700 million as part of the government’s multi-billion levelling up programme. With the towns ranging from seaside towns like Hartlepool to historic towns like Bedford and Bishop Auckland. The funding will also include renovations to various attractions helping to boost the cultural and tourism offers from each of the towns. Sustainability will be at the heart of most of these schemes with greener transport infrastructure. This will include new cycle paths and pedestrian walkways to help connect areas in the greenest way. 

    Not only will this help grow local economies, it will also carve out brand new opportunities. Helping to breathe new life into neglected or vacant spaces by creating vibrant new spaces for businesses, community events or much needed new homes. Creating thousands of jobs and investing in opportunities to improve skills, vocational training hubs will help support high-skilled and higher paid jobs in the areas.

    These are welcome plans, especially the funding going into investment in opportunities to improve skills for people in towns across England. The construction and manufacturing industries are facing a skills shortage with more skillers workers retiring than entering so investment into new training will certainly boost numbers. In turn this will boost local businesses by bringing in a fresh wave of skills and innovation, which the industry desperately needs. 

    Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said, “We are levelling up towns and cities across the country by building stronger and more resilient local economies, boosting prosperity and opportunity in our communities, and helping them build back better from the pandemic. Today I am announcing new town deals in 30 areas, backed by over £725 million investment from the Towns Fund. This will support locally-led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces, deliver new green transport and create new opportunities for people to develop new skills. This is a boost for communities and businesses across England.”


  7. £3 billion in funding for our NHS

    Comments Off on £3 billion in funding for our NHS

    A £3 billion hospital building programme was launched by the Health Secretary back in 2019. This new scheme proposed around 40 new hospitals built across England over the next ten years. This new investment also came in addition to the £33.9 billion increase in cash funding for the day-to-day running of the NHS being delivered by the government over the next five years. But what did it mean for the sector? And how did the pandemic impact the programme?

    I’m sure when this programme was announced the government didn’t account for a worldwide pandemic. Projects all over a variety of sectors had to slow down or stop all together. However, after over 15 months of ups and downs, things do seem to be picking up across the country. As we start to come out of the pandemic, this will be a big project for the government to get back to as part of their build back better pledges.  

    Six of the hospitals were already given the go-ahead, and a further twenty one new build projects, including thirty four new hospitals, were due to receive seed funding to kick start their schemes. 

    Some of the hospitals receiving funding include North Manchester General Hospital, Royal Preston Hospital, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. 

    The NHS has needed more investment for years and it’s great that we’re finally seeing a focus on investment. For years we’ve seen a short-term approach to NHS buildings and infrastructure, with repairs taking too long and hospitals not being able to treat patients because they’re underfunded and don’t have the capacity to deal with everyone coming in. 

    These plans were welcomed by a sector that hasn’t seen a lot of investment, though there was some confusion from the Trusts around how the funding would be divided up and where it was going. The government will hope that this more strategic approach helps improve the health infrastructure and facilities for the NHS over the long-term. Ultimately helping to provide more resources for staff, increase capacity for patients and help deliver better facilities and world-leading care for patients. 

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The dedication and tireless efforts of our nurses, doctors and all healthcare workers have kept the NHS open throughout this pandemic. But no matter what this virus throws at us, we are determined to build back better and deliver the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. From Morpeth to Milton Keynes, we are building 40 new hospitals across England to level up our NHS so more people have top-class healthcare services in their local area.”

    You can find out how we can provide solutions for the NHS, here.

  8. How can MMC help meet sustainability targets?

    Comments Off on How can MMC help meet sustainability targets?

    The delivery of net-zero buildings doesn’t necessarily come under offsite and modern methods of construction (MMC) but it is one of the major benefits. The construction industry currently accounts for around 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. This is a figure that needs to change. The only way this is going to change is if companies start being more innovative and moving towards MMC. So, how can MMC help meet sustainability targets?

    It’s important to explain that there are two parts to net-zero – embodied and operational carbon. They are vastly different and influenced by different parts of the construction process but applying both will still help towards any sustainability targets. 

    Embodied Carbon

    Put simply, embodied carbon is the carbon emissions associated with the materials and construction process throughout the entire lifecycle of a building or structure. This is an area often overlooked as companies try to put more focus into making a building net-zero when operational. 

    Adopting a MMC approach can significantly reduce the embodied carbon of a building or structure. Manufacturing processes produce much less carbon as the build is completed 90% offsite and with less labour required to build. Most of the people working on the building live relatively close to the factory so are more likely to car share, walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work. 

    There’s also much less traffic when compared to traditional methods. There aren’t trucks and lorries in and out of site or numbers of workers in and out. Once the build is complete, it’s delivered to site quickly and with much less traffic. 

    Our waste is also recyclable and all of our waste is diverted from landfill. Any wood is collected, shredded and then used for fuel at a local power station, plasterboard offcuts are sent to a plasterboard recycling specialist to be recycled back into usable plasterboard and any cardboard is also pulped for paper manufacture. Polythene waste is washed and processed into pellets, which can then be turned into a variety of products. Thurston’s also ensures that waste is minimal, using only what they need per job but any steel is able to be recycled and sent back to the supplier for reuse. 

    General waste that can’t be recycled is used for Refuse Derived Fuel, which means it’s sent off and incinerated to generate electricity. Soon Futur First will provide Thurston Group with food waste bins so the waste can be taken to an anaerobic digestion facility, where the gases are extracted to generate electricity and any remaining food is used on agricultural land.

    Operational Net-Zero Carbon

    This is when the net amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy, on an annual basis, is equal to or less than zero. Operational energy consists of the annual amount of energy required for heating, cooling and lighting. 

    This part of the net-zero element is influenced in the design stages of construction. MMC and offsite construction has the best chance of getting this right from the start. A controlled manufacturing process is able to deliver to a higher quality and is able to deliver more certainty of achieving the required performance levels with low U values, good insulation and minimal air leakage. This manufacturing process also produces greater levels of air tightness and improved building performance. All instrumental in ensuring buildings meet operational net-zero requirements. 

    If the government is serious about meeting its sustainability targets then more pressure needs to be on the industry to innovate and move to more sustainable methods of construction. Looking at some of the ways in which MMC helps achieve net-zero can really help a business reshape its processes and ensure that going forward, we’re all working together to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions. 

    How do we help achieve our own sustainability targets?

  9. ‘Defining the Need’ – A conclusion and a look ahead to the future

    Comments Off on ‘Defining the Need’ – A conclusion and a look ahead to the future

    ‘Defining the Need’ has demonstrated an objective approach to understanding the needs of the public sector estate. It also highlighted the need to harmonise and digitise demand across new build programmes. This piece is a conclusion of our ‘Defining the Need’ series and provides a look into the future to see how it can provide a long-term solution.

    The results of the cross-departmental pipeline analysis showed that the top three most common spaces were circulation, storage and bathrooms. Constituting around 30% of the entire government’s estate. This shows that there’s a huge opportunity for the government to harmonise pipelines and implement a platform system solution. A standardised, repeatable platform construction system that ultimately meets the needs of multiple departments would provide the public sector with a quicker, better quality building solution.

    This report, combined with the government’s Construction Playbook, would give departments an opportunity to focus on building spaces that improve departments or communities and provide the greatest value.

    A standardised approach to building doesn’t need to compromise on quality or flexibility. At Thurston’s we’re able to provide high quality modular and portable buildings for every sector. Utilising a standardised approach, we’re able to meet individual client requirements and create a bespoke building while reducing delivery speed, improving sustainability and improving quality.

    Based on the data analysed and collected, the Platform team have been able to start developing their platform strategy that meets the needs of the customer. Looking ahead, the Hub’s project team plans to build a Rulebook with defined rules and standards detailing how technologies and components can be integrated. It also plans to build a Value Proposition which will define the characteristics, differentiation, cost-structure and life cycle of the platform and a Kit of Parts. The Kit of Parts will comprise the components of the platform highlighting how it can be varied within certain constraints. Finally the team will also progress with resources to support adoption, called Enablers. 

    A platform construction system solution provides new ways of working that may require changes to the ways that organisations are structured. Not every organisation will be able to implement a platform strategy without making significant changes, which is why the project team will build a set of processes and standards to help. The overall success of a platform system approach will rely on clarity of roles, responsibilities and processes, as well as the kit of parts.

    The processes and standards developed by the Platform Design Programme (PDP) will be made openly available and in 2022, demonstrate how they can be applied in practice. The PDP will use the concept training building and work undertaken at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry as a showcase to show organisations how they can implement a platform construction system along with the benefits.

    The PDP can also offer opportunities to the wider market. The full report, due to be published in winter, will demonstrate the potential for platform construction systems and how it could potentially be applied to other industries within both the public and private sector. Enabling others to procure, develop and apply platforms to develop better, faster and greener outcomes.

  10. ‘Defining the Need’ – What are the key insights and how will they provide a solution?

    Comments Off on ‘Defining the Need’ – What are the key insights and how will they provide a solution?

    Following on from our last piece covering the Platform Design Programme, this week we’re looking at the key insights found from analysis of the five-year £50 billion forward pipeline from the Department for Education (DfE), Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). 

    ‘Defining the Need’, the initial project phase, conducted data analysis on this pipeline to capture customer needs, objectives and trends to develop and inform their platform strategy. It also identified areas of commonality and difference across the cross-departmental pipeline to see which characteristics of the platform systems can be applied to the public sector estate. 

    Of the £50 billion new build pipeline, the Hub found that at least £35 billion worth of projects could be created using a platform system. It also saw that more than 50% of space types, hallways, bathrooms and storage, aren’t sector specific and could be delivered with a standard platform solution for efficiency and productivity. 

    38% of the spaces within the new build pipeline will be for the Residential sector, presenting an opportunity for the private sector. If the proposed platform system demonstrates that it can build beautiful, sustainable and better quality homes then it could potentially be used to deliver, not just homes, but student accommodation, hospitals and hotels. 

    Another key finding was that buildings need to be highly adaptive so they can be repurposed across the required 60-year service life. The government is also committed to bringing a reduction in emissions to net zero by 2050. This means that all new buildings, especially those within the pipeline, need to align with this commitment and make sure that they’re sustainable.

    If you take a look at companies like Thurston’s across the UK, this is what we’re already doing. We’re continuously innovating to be able to deliver sustainable buildings for a variety of sectors at a reduced whole-life cost and reduced speed. Our buildings are also adaptable. Whichever sector you’re in, if you need an office or are delivering a hotel, our buildings are able to be adapted, repurposed and moved. 

    During the open call for evidence at the beginning of 2019, the Institution of Civil Engineers said, “In order to encourage the adoption and implementation of the P-DfMA approach, each relevant government department must first examine its own technical standards. Having a consistent and streamlined set of standards and components in this way would enable the market to respond more effectively, particularly if the industry is brought into the process early.”

    Aligning all of these trends and insights is important and an important step in innovating the Construction industry. The work demonstrates how the government can harmonise, digitise and rationalise demand in line with the policies in the Construction Playbook.

    The next and final part in the series concludes the findings and looks ahead to the future to see how the platform design solution can be implemented to improve efficiency and productivity in the construction industry.

    Want to catch up on the other pieces in our series? Head back to our Updates page to find the last two pieces in time for next week.


  11. ‘Defining the Need’ – What is the Platform Design Programme?

    Comments Off on ‘Defining the Need’ – What is the Platform Design Programme?

    The Construction Innovation Hub is collaborating with government and industry across four key themes of Value, Manufacturing, Digital and Assurance. The Hubs’ work supports the Construction Leadership Council’s strategy and the Roadmap to Recovery. A core element of the Hub’s programme, the Platform Design Programme (PDP) embodies all of the challenges of building design, while having to work with multiple departments and suppliers, to provide standardisation without compromising on flexibility and performance. 

    Funded through the UKRI’s Transforming Construction Challenge, the Hub aims to create better outcomes for the future by driving the adoption of manufacturing and digital approaches to improve the delivery and performance of infrastructure and create buildings that are fit for the future.

    Applying systems engineering and manufacturing techniques, the team is looking to develop a selection of processes, rules and standards to create a market for buildings made from platform construction systems. 

    Following these new processes, the Hub will develop, prototype and test this open platform construction system to highlight the benefits it will bring to the construction sector. 

    The new system will be implemented at scales across a pan-government pipeline of projects and programmes and look to reduce cost, delivery time and lifetime carbon emissions. It also looks to boost productivity and increase the asset whole-life value and offer an opportunity to integrate active renewable energy systems. It will also be able to be used flexibly to create beautiful, well-designed buildings that are fit for the future. 

    Analysis of initial data, combined with stakeholder interviews with clients and end users has identified a clear opportunity for platform design within the construction sector. There are companies across the UK manufacturing this way but the uptake has been slow across various sectors. Of the £50 billion pipeline analysed, around £35 billion has been identified as being able to be delivered in whole, or in part, through a platform solution. 

    The next part in our series will look at this analysis and its key insights to see why the ‘Defining the Need’ report is recommending a move to platform systems. 

  12. The four grand challenges to make the UK fit for the future

    Comments Off on The four grand challenges to make the UK fit for the future

    The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) has written a white paper to set out its long-term plan to boost productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK.  As part of their plan to ‘build a Britain that’s fit for the future’, it has set out four Grand Challenges which aim to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. Ensuring that the country takes full advantage of major global changes, improving people’s lives and the country’s productivity as a whole. 

    The first four Grand Challenges are focused on the main global trends that are set to transform our future. They are:

    • Artificial intelligence (AI) and data
    • Ageing society
    • Clean Growth
    • Future of mobility

    The DBEIS is developing ambitious missions to tackle each of these Grand Challenges. Each mission will focus on a specific issue and will bring government, business and organisations throughout the country together to drive solutions and make a real difference. 

    Wanting to put the UK ahead in the AI and data revolution, an Office for AI has been put together. AI and machine learning are already starting to transform the global economy but it is growing within organisations around the country. In healthcare specifically, it is already helping doctors diagnose medical conditions more effectively and assisting in communications. The hope is that embedding AI across the UK will create good quality jobs and drive economic growth. The main mission is to use data, AI and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030. 

    Meeting the needs of our ageing society has been in focus for some time. The DBEIS hopes to harness innovation to help accelerate this mission and create an economy which works for everyone, regardless of age. It wants to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the richest and the poorest. It’s not just in the UK, but globally. We are living longer and this creates more need and demand for services like housing, education and healthcare. We need to help build homes that are fit for the future. Where people can grow as a family while helping our older generations lead independent lives. This will ultimately help them continue to contribute to society. 

    The shift to clean growth has also been a focus for some time but goalposts are so far in the future that there’s a worry it will be too late. The move to cleaner economic growth through more efficient use of resources and low carbon technology, is one of the most important missions. The DBEIS wants to halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030 and establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040. With at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030.

    The final Grand Challenge; the future of mobility, aims to ensure the UK is a world leader in shaping the future of mobility. It also links to clean growth, with the main mission aiming to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles. With all new cars and vans effectively zero emission by 2040. This mission is all about looking for the ways we can improve customer experience, drive efficiency and get people travelling around much more freely, without impacting negatively on the environment. 

    All of these challenges require innovation, not just from the Government itself. But from businesses around the country. Moving to more sustainable methods of working and building is an important first step. Construction specifically accounts for nearly half of the UK’s total carbon emissions. This is where the country could make a significant difference but it requires more people to move to modern methods of construction. 

    You can find out more about the missions and grand challenges on the government website.

  13. ‘Defining the Need’ – the plan to accelerate standardisation in the construction sector

    Comments Off on ‘Defining the Need’ – the plan to accelerate standardisation in the construction sector

    The movement to bring standardised, repeatable platform systems found in the manufacturing sector to construction continues to grow. But has been held back by a lack of clarity and consistency in the processes and standards which allow platform solutions to work across multiple sectors, stakeholders, projects and building types. As well as a lack of confidence in a forward pipeline for these solutions. ‘Defining the Need’ is report outlining plans to accelerate standardisation in the construction sector. 

    The government’s Construction Playbook outlines 14 key policies and guidance for how public works projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered. This has helped to accelerate the growth for standardised, repeatable platform systems. At the same time, the Construction Innovation Hub looks to develop the processes and standards that support platform solutions and will develop a concept building using platform components to highlight how it works. The Hub aims to provide organisations with the processes and standards they need to make the necessary changes to their structure to implement a platform system and show them how to use it.

    Last year, the Hub’s Platform team partnered with several government departments including education, housing, health and social care, justice and defence, to create a cross-departmental data set of future requirements against a £50 billion five-year new build pipeline using these new processes and standards. 

    Initial data analysis served as evidence in support of the policies outlined in the Playbook, and signals the government’s move towards procuring more construction projects based on three main focuses. Focuses include platforms consisting of standardised interlinking components and assembly, driving improvements in setting clear and outcome-based specifications and enabling innovation by using modern methods of construction (MMC) through aggregated and standardised demand. 

    At the end of last year, the Construction Innovation Hub launched a summary of their upcoming ‘Defining the Need’ report, due to be published this winter. This report takes these three main themes and defines the potential benefits of standardisation and harmonisation across construction projects. Construction generally suffers a variety of challenges including weather issues and delays, projects can take up a long time and can come at increased costs. Standardisation and repeatable platform systems can help innovate the industry and improve efficiency and productivity. 

    This short series will look at the summary report for ‘Defining the Need’ and the Platform Design Programme, including what it is and its key findings and insights. It’ll also look at how it will benefit the construction industry, its conclusions and a look ahead at what the future of the industry looks like. 

  14. Thurston Group attends Place North West’s Meet the Authorities event

    Comments Off on Thurston Group attends Place North West’s Meet the Authorities event

    Some of the team attended Place North West’s in person Meet the Authorities: Public-Private Partnerships event last week. Discussing how a strong economic recovery will depend on successful public-private partnerships.  

    Taking place safely in person at the Lowry Hotel with limited numbers, ‘Meet the Authorities’ was a mix of presentations and panels with networking opportunities. Main discussions formed around how developers and investors can best work with councils and whether planning authorities have the resource to handle significant developments. It also looked at government funding sources and other initiatives that will set the agenda in the next few years.

    The first presentation and panel came from Phil Mayall, Board Director at Muse Developments, Kevin Riley, Director at WSP, Emma Birkett, Heritage Director at Rochdale Development Agency, Barry Roberts, Managing Director – North West at Morgan Sindall Construction and Roger Frith, Head of Strategic Regeneration and Development at Oldham Council. 

    While the second presentation and panel discussion featured a range of speakers. From Mark McNamee, Managing Director at Cityheart and Richard Laming, Senior Director at Turley to Darren Jones, Development Director at Nikal, and Alan Evans, Director of Regeneration and Place at Wirral Council. 

    Gemma Darroch, our Business Development Director, enjoyed attending the event and found it insightful. She said, “As a Wirral resident myself I was particularly interested to hear about the regeneration plans from Alan Evans, at Wirral Council in partnership with Muse and Peel Developments. It was interesting to find out how placemaking and mixed use development are at the heart of their regeneration plans.”

  15. Thurston Group attends IdeasHub

    Comments Off on Thurston Group attends IdeasHub

    Our Business Development Manager, Gemma Darroch, spent the morning attending the IdeasHub from Willmott Dixon and the Procurement Hub. The first webinar in their leadership series where they’ll be sharing knowledge, insight, intelligence and innovation from industry renowned speakers. With a view to unlock proactive conversation with members, partners and guests. 

    Their first online event saw two renowned visionaries of the procurement world who brought their invaluable thoughts and insights. Peter Kilkenny, Executive Director, has developed extensive operational experience across both the public and private sectors, managing a range of Sports, Leisure and Cultural venues. He gave his thoughts around how town and city centres may regenerate in the future. Alan Heron FCIPS, Director of Procurement at Procurement Hub, has over twenty years’ experience in multiple sectors including IT, public, private and healthcare. He provided an overview of the green paper and offered his thoughts on best practise moving forward. 

    The event was all about the government’s Levelling Up Fund, which will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life right across the UK. With a much needed £4.8 billion fund, this will support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects and cultural and heritage assets. Town centres and high streets have suffered massively throughout the pandemic and this fund looks to boost local economies and improve the lives of communities in towns up and down the country. 

    Gemma Darroch found the event insightful and was interested to hear their thoughts on the long term plans. She said, “I was particularly interested to learn about the longer term NHS care plan which is looking to increase healthcare at a local level. Focusing on people and communities, the plan aims to put a spotlight on collaboration and partnerships involving a whole range of organisations.”

  16. Children without homes

    Comments Off on Children without homes

    It’s estimated that around 400,000 people are homeless or at risk of going homeless in England. Sadly, a large proportion of those are children without homes. According to a report launched by Shelter, 135,000 children are homeless or living in temporary accommodation. The highest number in 12 years. 

    Emergency accommodation

    This report shines a light on the 5,683 homeless families with children currently living in emergency B&Bs and hostels. Arguably the worst type of accommodation. Here, families tend to live in one room with hardly any space to play, cook or eat meals. Sometimes they’re even forced to share a bathroom with strangers. This accommodation, as they’re placed there in an emergency, is often located far from schools, jobs and loved ones too. This unfortunately means that these children often suffer in school. Not only do they struggle to actually get to school, they can end up falling behind the rest of their classmates. 

    Around 1.5 million children were forecast to fall into poverty between 2010 and 2021, according to Shelter UK who dubbed it a ‘national disgrace’. And that was before the world was plunged into a global pandemic. With the furlough scheme due to end and a significant number of redundancies being forecast, numbers are only set to rise. 

    How can we get children into a safe home?

    We know that we’ve been in a housing crisis for some time, and that we need a lot more homes than we are building. But the solution isn’t just to ‘build more homes’. They need to be safe, secure, accessible and affordable. Families need to be able to live and still be able to put food on the table. 

    The right home environment is essential for our health and mental wellbeing. Meeting National Space Standards, our homes provide families with ample space. Children are able to spend time together whilst also having the space to be able to have some time to themselves to complete homework or just take some time out. We also build with placemaking in mind. Actively encouraging communities to grow and thrive so families and children are able to socialise helping to combat loneliness.

    New homes also need to be fit for the future. Our bespoke, affordable and accessible family modular homes come with a lifetime guarantee of 60 years and are built to meet future demand. Our bespoke service means that we’re flexible enough to work closely with our clients to design and build the homes that they want and need. So not every home will look the same and can also meet different needs, for different people. Lots of homes across the country aren’t suitable. We need to be building homes that last and that families can grow old in. 

    We can help councils and local authorities meet the immediate housing needs across the UK. If children have somewhere safe to call their home, they have the space to do homework and play that isn’t also the same place that they have to eat and wash. Enabling them to thrive at school and later in life.

    Find out how we can help get children without homes into safe, affordable ones by reaching out.

  17. What is the ‘Everyone in’ Initiative?

    Comments Off on What is the ‘Everyone in’ Initiative?

    In what was described as a “landmark moment” by the Chief Executive of Crisis in March 2020, the Government asked local authorities across England to “get everyone in”. This included those who wouldn’t normally be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation. 

    ‘Everyone in’ initiative

    In response, local authorities launched the ‘everyone in’ initiative. Ensuring that people sleeping rough, and in accommodation where it was difficult to self-isolate, were safely accommodated across the country. Protecting them and the wider public from the risks of covid-19, it was an enormous challenge supported by the government with £3.2 million in funding and guidance. Local authorities secured hotel rooms and other en-suite accommodation while working with partners to ensure everyone had enough food, medical care and support. 

    Announcing the emergency funding, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, said, “Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority. We’re working closely with councils and charities to ensure they have the support they need throughout this period.”

    Protecting the vulnerable

    The outbreak last spring prompted an unprecedented public health response to protect the most vulnerable. Rough sleepers are more likely to have underlying health conditions. They can also face difficulties in following public health advice on self-isolation, social distancing and hygiene. Not only do they face a challenge following the guidance, they also face barriers in accessing public health information and adequate healthcare. Shared facilities used by rough sleepers – such as day centres and night shelters, can increase transmission. 

    The government has allocated over £700 million funding in 2020/21 to support rough sleepers and those at risk. In April 2020, the government had reported that over 90% of known rough sleepers in England had been offered accommodation as a result of the ‘everyone in’ initiative. By November 2020, over 20,000 people had moved into settled accommodation or supported housing. Although, homelessness organisations have reported that a flow of new rough sleepers has continued throughout the pandemic and demand in their services has increased. 

    Local authorities welcomed the additional emergency funding to help them in response to the outbreak. However, the level of funding for homelessness services still remains a concern. The LGA criticised the short-term, fragmented and resource-intensive competitive nature of the current funding. Calling for long-term and sustainable homelessness funding. The availability of suitable move-on accommodation also remains a concern. Stakeholders have called for further measures to prevent homelessness. This includes more housing nationally, improvements to the UK welfare system, protections for private renters and increased investment in social housing. 

    Meanwhile housing as a solution?

    Though simply increasing the amount of new homes won’t solve the issue. There’s a reluctance to move to modern methods of construction, despite the speed and sustainability benefits. But with traditional builds, planning is a particularly long and notoriously difficult process. ‘Meanwhile housing’ provides a temporary solution and much needed homes while an area sits vacant. Meaning families and rough sleepers can live in nicer housing while they wait for more permanent homes.  

    Do you need help building homes in your area? Reach out and see how we can help. Find out more about the homes we’ve built and the councils we’ve helped on our case studies page.

  18. Councils given funding to help with homelessness

    Comments Off on Councils given funding to help with homelessness

    The Government will provide up to £211.6 million in funding for councils across England to deliver over 2,700 Move-On homes. Their mission is to significantly reduce homelessness and provide support services so they don’t end up back on the street.  A ‘Move-On’ home is temporary accommodation and support. It’s made available to occupants as a stepping stone to prepare rough sleepers for fully independent living. 

    The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has invited councils, who work closely with local stakeholders including charities, local authorities and social housing providers, to submit proposals and bids for the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) up until 2024 and secure funding to bring a reduction in homelessness in their area. 

    Last October they announced funding for local partners to deliver the first year of RSAP. More than 3,000 new ‘Move On’ homes for rough sleepers across the country were approved and backed by a Government investment of more than £150 million. 

    Not only is the scheme for new build homes, it’s also for refurbishment, regeneration, private sector leasing and lease and repair. To ensure these homes remain ‘Move On’ homes, rather than long-term housing, tenancies will only be awarded for a maximum duration of up to two years. This means that they will always be available for the homeless, if necessary, and the support provided will help them move into more permanent homes. 

    Though this is a welcome idea and will help to get people off the streets and into safety. There lies the issue of long-term houses and whether there are enough. We simply aren’t building enough homes per year to meet demand. And despite the planning reforms, it’s still a lengthy process which means it can take between three and five years for a brand new development to be completed. 

    We’re able to provide a high-quality modular solution for both temporary and permanent housing, up to 50 per cent quicker than traditionally built homes. We can build pop-up homes in vacant spots while councils and developers go through the planning process to get people into ‘Meanwhile Homes’. Or we can build a more permanent development to reduce housing waiting lists.

    Do you need help building homes in your area? Reach out and see how we can help.